Published on December 13th, 2021 | by Harmonist staff1
Jāmātṛ Muni’s Influence in Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda and Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī – Part 8: Synopsis and Conclusion
By Swāmī Bhakti Praṇaya Padmanābha
Additional articles in this series: The Difference Between Disturbing and Nourishing One’s Faith; Can Nitya-siddhas Speak Relative Statements and Not be Downplayed for That?; The Notion of Prīti in the Śrī Sampradāya; Are We to Read our Ācāryas According to the Sources They Quote?; Ascertaining the Meaning of Śeṣatva; The Case for Teleological Inherence; Are Śrī Bhaktivinoda and Jīva Goswāmī Consistent in Stating that Bhakti Is Inherent?; Synopsis and Conclusion
The very foundation of my argument in my forthcoming book is not that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura presented a circumstantial adjustment or some of my other hypotheses, as the pūrvapakṣī has claimed.1 My main argument rested on quoting the Goswāmīs and our main Gauḍīya scriptures to show how they unanimously declare that bhakti and prema are not inherent in the jīva. It is only as a consequence of this that I have tried to harmonize whatever the Ṭhākura and other ācāryas seem to have said to the contrary at times. And since stalwarts like Śrī Bhaktivinoda and Śrīla Prabhupāda are great authorities not only for the pūrvapakṣī but for me as well, I have tried to honor them by deeply thinking about how to reconcile their statements in the second part of my forthcoming book. I could have just finished my book after its first part, but I chose not to do so because of this.
Although I do not personally feel so strongly about some of Bhaktivinoda’s statements regarding inherent bhakti being an outreach technique anymore, there is nonetheless place for such presentations, and we should be willing to resolve those apparent contradictions by allowing ourselves to acknowledge them, instead of forcibly absolutizing anything that our ācāryas have said. Thus, we should properly honor our contemporary ācāryas by explaining each of their statements with an open mind and heart.
I do not claim to have the perfect conclusion in that regard, and that is why I keep articulating my own understanding. But this does not mean that the pūrvapakṣī has therefore refuted the arguments of my forthcoming book since, to begin with, he has denounced the proposition that Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda and others did not always preach the siddhānta, while on the other side he himself does not accept everything these ācāryas have said, such as falling from the spiritual world or a taṭastha region. So there are still some basic contradictions the pūrvapakṣī needs to resolve for himself.
Concentrating only on one single word from one single book, such as śeṣatva, and explaining it according to the siddhānta of another sampradaya, and then trying to justify everything Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrī Jīva said in that connection is a weak, untenable position.
In this way, the hypotheses I have presented in chapters 9 through 12 of my forthcoming book are trying to harmonize whatever the Ṭhākura has said with what Śrī Jīva declared in his Sandarbhas.
In contrast, the pūrvapakṣī’s assumptions are trying to force the Goswāmīs to fully agree with whatever Śrī Bhaktivinoda—and even Jāmātṛ Muni—has said.
While I believe in the pūrvapakṣī’s intention to show how Śrī Bhaktivinoda never preached apasiddhānta, the fact that he considers that inherent bhakti is the actual siddhānta presents a myriad of additional problems: If bhakti’s inherence is our Gauḍīya siddhānta, then how do we explain those quotes where the Ṭhākura clearly says the opposite? Is Śrī Bhaktivinoda preaching apasiddhānta in those sections? And if bhakti’s noninherence is supposedly apasiddhānta, is the pūrvapakṣī suggesting that the Goswāmīs, who clearly supported noninherence, are therefore preaching apasiddhānta? Thus, that very thing the pūrvapakṣī wanted to avoid ends up defining his presentation.
For argument’s sake, even if the pūrvapakṣī is able to prove that Śrī Bhaktivinoda was following Jāmātṛ Muni and desired to see the Sandarbhas through that lens—accepting that as a viable scripturally-based perspective—still we find that this is not how Jīva Goswāmī has addressed the issue, nor others outside our parivāra (but within the Gaudiya umbrella) for centuries. So the possibility that Śrī Bhaktivinoda was following Jāmātṛ Muni could be seen as an outreach technique in itself: the idea of inherent bhakti as way more appealing to the masses of people on the one hand, while also pushing back on the idea that siddha-praṇālī has to be given and paid for. These were the issues Śrī Bhaktivinoda was dealing with at that time. Thus, if the pūrvapakṣī can substantiate that the Ṭhākura was actually taking from the Rāmānuja sampradāya and using their arguments as a filter to look at Śrī Jīva and he presented that side, that in itself could be a circumstantial adjustment he invoked—one that could be accepted if one likes, or not.
In other words, without really knowing what Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is doing and why, it is considerably hard to ascertain the ultimate reasons for it, and everyone could conjecture for centuries. And while I have conjectured about a few possibilities regarding the underlying reasons for the Ṭhākura’s presentation in my forthcoming book, the pūrvapakṣī’s whole presentation, which interestingly is introduced in the context of impartial scholarly research, is almost solely based in a myriad of feeble conjectures.
Thus, since the siddhānta of bhakti’s noninherence has been unequivocally established in Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta, one of the remaining questions would be: Did Śrī Bhaktivinoda follow Jāmātṛ Muni according to the Muni’s actual intention—inherent bhakti—or did he follow him in the same way Śrī Jīva “followed” the Muni, by borrowing the structure of his list for establishing bhakti’s noninherence? According to what has been shared by the pūrvapakṣī, the latter seems a much more plausible reading. Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda is not a follower of Jāmātṛ Muni but a follower of the Six Goswāmīs—the Seventh Goswāmī.
This would take us to another possible conclusion: that even when following Śrī Jāmātṛ, our Śrī Bhaktivinoda is actually following Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī, and if we pay close attention to how Śrī Jīva “followed” the Muni, we will understand from which place Bhaktivinoda followed him, all of which further confirms the statements of both Śrī Bhaktivinoda and Śrī Jīva on bhakti being inherited, not inherent. Indeed, we may even venture to entertain the possibility that the Ṭhākura followed Jāmātṛ Muni due to circumstantial adjustments, translational issues, and/or theological unfolding, which I discuss at length in my forthcoming book.2
It is highly heterodox and even irrational to think that the Sandarbhas or even Śrī Bhaktivinoda must be seen through the lens of another sampradāya. We do not need to go and study under a learned follower of one specific school coming from Śrī Rāmānuja in order to understand Gauḍīya Vedānta. Thus, if the hypotheses of circumstantial adjustment, translational issues, and/or theological unfolding found in my forthcoming book prove unsatisfactory to the reader, and even if we recognize that we may still not know why some of our ācāryas said what they said at times, still there is no need to resort to so-called groundbreaking findings of research into other sampradayas to receive the ultimate explanation for this issue, since the siddhānta on this topic has been and remains always the same. In other words, whether we know or do not know why our contemporary ācāryas said what they said at times, Gauḍīya siddhānta will always remain the same.
In these types of conversation, we are expected to first determine pramāṇa, or the proper source of knowledge. Only then will prameya, or that which is to be ascertained through pramāṇa, become easily verified. Unfortunately, I do not feel that the pūrvapakṣī has a clearly established notion of this since his main pramāṇa has been statements from another sampradāya and from contemporary Gauḍīya ācāryas like Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda and Śrīla Prabhupāda, all of which, although being our most honorable guardians, are not the ones who originally delineated our Gauḍīya siddhānta and, therefore, are not the ones we should go to as ultimate authorities when ascertaining the definitive conclusions of our particular lineage. Thus, a natural consequence of not establishing a proper and consistent pramāṇa from the very beginning is that one’s attempts to ascertain prameya will prove defective and insufficient.
Having made my points, once again I leave it to my readers to decide for themselves which viewpoint is deemed as more chaste to the position of both Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda and our founding ācāryas, the Six Goswāmīs. But one thing remains beyond question: The undisputed and consensual siddhānta of the Gauḍīya sampradāya is that bhakti is not inherent in the jīva—neither physically, nor etiologically, nor teleologically.3
For more on Swāmī B. P. Padmanābha’s forthcoming book Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta, see http://www.bhaktiinthejiva.com/ and http://www.facebook.com/bhaktiinthejiva.
- The term pūrvapakṣa refers to an opposing view, while a pūrvapakṣī is the one who presents the pūrvapakṣa. [↩]
- For more on this, see chapter 10 of my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta. [↩]
- For more scriptural evidence on bhakti being not inherent, see the section “Supporting Evidence for Bhakti being Not Inherent (as Discussed in Chapters 1 to 4)” in the Appendix of my forthcoming book, Inherent or Inherited? Bhakti in the Jīva According to Gauḍīya Vedānta. [↩]